Thursday, August 25, 2005

Tonga: threatening force

A member of the Tongan government is threatening to use the military against the strikers in the wake of another attempted arson. Akauola, Governor of Vava'u and chairman of the Cabinet media committee, blamed striking workers for inspiring the vandalism and attempt to burn down a school:

He said a small team of strikers flew into Vava'u the day before and met teachers all afternoon. They instructed students to stay home.

"Then the computers are trashed and someone tries to burn the school down. Coincidence is it?"

Akauola said there were extremist elements in Tongan society, such as deportees from the United States.

If the damage continued the Government was bound to act. Legislation in place included formidable anti-terrorist powers.

Akauola said the Government, while it would be reluctant to come across heavy-handed, had a duty to govern, particularly if life was threatened or people were burned in their homes.

At this stage, I think New Zealand needs to make it clear to the Tongans that there will be diplomatic consequences if they use the military against the Tongan people.The Tongan police should of course arrest and prosecute those responsible for arson and vandalism. But they should not punish those whose only "crime" is to seek a better deal from their government.


The people in charge believe they are inherently of better breeding than the peasants. This is very ingrained culturally and reinforced through stints at Kings College. I think they will not hesitate to use force against the commoners. This threatens the right of the Tu'i Tonga and the system of privilege that keeps the elite above the law since the foundation of the state 1000 odd years ago.

I am reminded of the scene in the Rapa Nui movie (Easter Island) where the Tohunga (played by James Henare) is given news of a rebellion and immediately gives the general death order without any hesitation or consideration (it was countermanded by the king).

Once again MFAT is hopeless. They think this is still an employment issue and have sent an Employment Court Judge to help them! Useless. These things are symptoms and can explode as the real causes - squandering elite and dictatorship - come to the fore.

I would suggest setting up a "Pathways to Democracy Fund" which MFAT can give to Tongans who are opposed to the dictatorship and they can then use that to form parties etc. If they then form a provisional government compatible with the principles of that fund, ie. democracy, then we can recognise that government and detain the King and his cronies in Auckland on their behalf and/or forcibly repatriate them to face the music (or accept a non-executive status).

This is the sort of advice I want MFAT to give Goff.

Posted by Bomber : 8/25/2005 05:35:00 PM

...and what if the judge did broker a resolution? He would have effectively subverted democracy by arranging to keep the dictatorship intact. Why should the dictatorship be assisted? Shouldn't we be wanting a crisis that will bring about the fall of the dictatorship? If we have planned for a smooth(ish) transition and support we should actually be working with pro-democracy groups to provoke a crisis - as it is the only way to achieve it.

Posted by Bomber : 8/25/2005 05:41:00 PM

Shouldn't NZ consider telling the Tongan King he isn't welcome here until he introduces democracy? After all we wouldn't let Mugabe in the country (actually the entire Mugabe regime are specifically banned by name from NZ - the only people that are).

Posted by Rich : 8/25/2005 07:43:00 PM

Intersting tie in with the post on Blair's encroachment on freedom of speech. Here we have someone, as I read it, quite clearly inciting a terrorist act (under the definition of section 5(1)(a) of the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002) - 'we should actually be working with pro-democracy groups to provoke a crisis - as it is the only way to achieve it'.

Posted by David Cauchi : 8/25/2005 11:56:00 PM

Oops, I s'pose I should at least try to explain my reasoning.

Section 5(1)(a) provides that an act is a terrorist act if it 'falls within subsection (2)', which provides that 'An act falls within this subsection if it is intended to cause, in any 1 or more countries, 1 or more of the outcomes specified in subsection (3), and is carried out for the purpose of advancing an ideological, political, or religious cause, and with the following intention:

'(a) to induce terror in a civilian population; or

'(b) to unduly compel or to force a government or an international organisation to do or abstain from doing any act.'

The statement in question was specifically to further a political cause (pro-democracy) with the intention to unduly compel the Government of Tonga.

Subsection (3) provides:

'(3) The outcomes referred to in subsection (2) are—

'(a) the death of, or other serious bodily injury to, 1 or more persons (other than a person carrying out the act):

'(b) a serious risk to the health or safety of a population:

'(c) destruction of, or serious damage to, property of great value or importance, or major economic loss, or major environmental damage, if likely to result in 1 or more outcomes specified in paragraphs (a), (b), and (d):

'(d) serious interference with, or serious disruption to, an infrastructure facility, if likely to endanger human life:

(e) introduction or release of a disease-bearing organism, if likely to devastate the national economy of a country.'

I believe provoking a crisis would necessarily result in the outcome specified in paragraph (c), and be likely to result in either or both of the outcomes specified in paragraphs (a) and (d).

Of course, I'm not a lawyer, so what would I know? Interesting though.

Posted by David Cauchi : 8/26/2005 12:20:00 AM

Interesting to read some of the posts here. On the one hand, this site regularly condemns the US for using heavy-handed tactics to change regimes and undermine governments around the world. Now we have someone propose New Zealand does exactly that by funding opposition parties and arresting the king. I admit it isn't quite at the level of exporting democracy at gunpoint, since T Selwyn hasn't suggested New Zealand invade Tonga, but his suggestions, if implemented, would make it difficult for New Zealanders to criticise America's actions in Iraq.

Posted by Anonymous : 8/26/2005 10:35:00 AM

There's a big difference between supporting a popular uprising, and invading and occupying another country with no consideration for the consequences.

Posted by Commie Mutant Traitor : 8/26/2005 03:03:00 PM

Good comments. What's the offence worth? I'm already looking at two years for sedition! Although supressing the King's despotism is like advocating a supression to his terrorism of "his" own people in the context of the situation.

We (NZ) seem to accept all sorts of tyrants as legit as long as the people they are ruling aren't actively seeking to overthrow them. The situation in Tonga may change soon. I saw that pasty, white Princess turning on the fake tears and patronising the strikers on the TV news. She had Emalda Marcos written all over her - yuk.

As for the Iraq-US analogy:
I am suggesting a Pathways to Democracy Fund as a tool to help Tongans choose democracy for Tonga.
I am keen that NZ help out because a) We fund them seemingly with no strings attached, b) We educate their dictatorship regime heirarchy, c) We are fellow Pacific Islanders with a regional commitment.

Posted by Bomber : 8/26/2005 04:23:00 PM

David: There's also a clear exemption is S. 5 (5) of the Act that states that "the fact that a person engages in any protest, advocacy, or dissent... is not, by itself, a sufficient basis for inferring that the person" is acting for any of the purposes or intends to cause any of the outcomes above. I also doubt that advocating for government action would count, and in any case in order to be considered a party (which is what "incitement" actually involves) there would need to be something a lot more specific than just saying "I think we should make things worse".

Of course, IANAL either, so take that with a grain of salt. Maybe Tim could send a press release to the media, and wait for the arrest?

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 8/26/2005 07:11:00 PM

Anon: And you may also notice that that someone isn't me.

I support Tongan democracy, but I support a peaceful transition, not a violent overthrow. We can provide moral and even financial/educational support (as the international community did for democratic forces in Ukraine and Georgia), and try and make sure that that transition goes peacefully, but if we want that democracy to flourish and be stable, then Tongans must find it in their own way.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 8/26/2005 07:13:00 PM

T Selwyn:

I'm not sure what you mean by your 'Pathways to Democracy Fund'. Financial aid to the strikers is one thing, but if you're thinking of more I would imagine a lot of care would need to be taken to ensure it doesn't come across as patronising and colonialist.


I don't believe section 5(5) is an out in this case. That only provides that dissent etc is not sufficient by itself to meet the criteria. It's the 'by itself' that's crucial. Dissent etc that's intended to cause the outcomes in subsection (3) and meets the criteria in subsection (2) is still a terrorist act.

Of course, the only way to know for sure is for it to be tested in the courts.

Posted by David Cauchi : 8/27/2005 03:50:00 PM